Travel Marketers Must Pivot or Be Left Behind

By Rob Yoegel

November 16, 2012

The annual PhoCusWright Conference this week centered on one word: Pivot.

As Gene Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Tnooz, emphasizes below in the latest installment of our interview, consumers are now in control of the travel purchase path. Marketers must react to the needs and demands of travel buyers who are shaping the future of how they interact with brands.

During Wednesday's workshops, vendors were able to showcase their products and services with support from their clients.

One of the standout workshops, "How to Drive More Bookings and Brand Loyalty With Social," featured Gareth Morgan, Director, Web Products at International Hotels Group, and Stephen Dumaine, Senior Vice President, Global Strategy and Product Innovation at Travelocity. Both spoke about how their companies infuse user-generated content into their businesses.

Morgan believes that the most successful travel brands have the strongest user-generated content, and pay special attention to how people talk about their brands online. By dedicating resources to not only monitoring, but also responding to social media discussions, there's a direct impact on the amount of trust consumers have with a brand. Morgan went on to say that he's surprised that hoteliers who take such good care of their guests on-site don't feel the need to do the same online.

The panelists agreed that marketers must make sure they engage in the conversation and not leave the dialogue to others. They also pushed the importance of validating and verifying reviews, stressing that their companies take fraud monitoring very seriously. While it's important to have equality and volume to increase consumer confidence, review authentication is a critical part of increasing credibility.

Another key takeaway from the workshop was the message regarding the consumption of content on mobile devices. The presenters made it clear that not only will this shift continue, but marketers must analyze the different behaviors of users on smartphones versus tablets, and even native apps.

Technology Not an IT Problem

Christopher Kurzyna, Manager, Web Operations at Hertz, took the idea of pivoting further when he revealed that the rental car company didn't make new technology an IT problem. Rather, Hertz made optimizing the website a company-wide initiative, ultimately creating a rich responsive online experience.

By innovating rather than playing catch-up, Hertz was able to "build once and reuse" without customizing every experience for new devices or screen sizes. The result is a consistent website experience across platforms that uses the native features specific to the visitor's device (e.g,, phone, camera, contacts, or geolocation), while improving performance with fewer requests to backend servers.

Partnerships Key to Transformation

After the Wednesday morning workshops, the second part of the day was highlighted by the conference's crowded Center State program.

The keynote featured Kim Goodman, President, Global Business Travel at American Express, who expressed her belief that there are massive changes underway in business travel, which should not be viewed as a commodity, but part of an organization that drives business and growth.

Goodman had two clear calls to action to the entire industry.

  1. Pivot to greater quality throughout the transaction process, including reliable uptime and a frictionless experience that supports the customer throughout the travel purchase.
  2. Pivot to better data quality. The emergence and availability of so much more data is an opportunity to become more valuable, strategic and important to customers. Focus on relevant data rather than the quantity of data.

Lastly, Goodman suggested that to move this industry transformation forward, travel marketers must work more closely with partners, focusing their attention on collective efforts that result in deep, trusted, equitable partnerships.

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